Projecting the ACC’s Breakout Sophomores

Posted by Brad Jenkins on November 2nd, 2017

Every preseason we take a hard look at the rosters around the ACC and wonder which returning players will make the leap from role player to key contributor. Lately we have watched many of those returnees come from relative obscurity to full stardom in just one season: players like Jaron Blossomgame (Clemson, 2015-16), Matt Farrell (Notre Dame, 2016-17), and John Collins (Wake Forest 2016-17). In most instances, few outside of the specific program expected such a drastic improvement. For example, raise your hand if you had Collins pegged as one of the ACC’s top three players last October. Thought so. Still, sometimes we can project significant leaps in production by looking at advanced statistics for players who are poised to see an increase in minutes and/or usage this season. For instance, Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson surprised many observers by becoming a First Team All-ACC member as a junior. But if you closely examine his sophomore campaign statistics — 122.0 Offensive Rating, 58.7 percent true shooting percentage — it’s easy to see why his contributions shot up with a corresponding increase in playing time. In the second of this two-part series, here’s our list of potential breakout sophomores in the ACC this season.

Sophomore Surges

1) V.J. King – Louisville: 13.5 MPG, 5.5 PPG, 111.3 ORtg, 55.0% true shooting.

V.J. King posted impressive shooting numbers as a rookie which should lead to a major leap in production as a sophomore at Louisville. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America)

One of many Cardinals with professional-level potential, King posted promising shooting numbers last season from three-point range (42.1%) and at the charity stripe (82.1%). His minutes should double this year and his usage rate (19.6%) figures to increase as well — all meaning that we may be looking at a 14-plus point per game scorer this season in Louisville.

2) Kyle Guy – Virginia: 18.6 MPG, 7.5 PPG, 114.8 ORtg, 49.5% 3FG.

The word is that Guy will perform without his signature man-bun this season, but don’t expect him to slow down without it. Given multiple losses from the Cavaliers’ perimeter attack, Guy should be head coach Tony Bennett’s top guard this year. Guy posted two extremely impressive statistics for a freshman guard — 49.5 percent three-point shooting, and a turnover rate of only 10.6 percent.

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Projecting the ACC’s Breakout Juniors

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 1st, 2017

Every preseason we take a hard look at the rosters around the ACC and wonder which returning players will make the leap from role player to key contributor. Lately we have watched many of those returnees come from relative obscurity to full stardom in just one season: players like Jaron Blossomgame (Clemson, 2015-16), Matt Farrell (Notre Dame, 2016-17), and John Collins (Wake Forest 2016-17). In most instances, few outside of the specific program expected such a drastic improvement. For example, raise your hand if you had Collins pegged as one of the ACC’s top three players last October. Thought so. Still, sometimes we can project significant leaps in production by looking at advanced statistics for players who are poised to see an increase in minutes and/or usage this season. For instance, Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson surprised many observers by becoming a First Team All-ACC member as a junior. But if you closely examine his sophomore campaign statistics — 122.0 Offensive Rating, 58.7 percent true shooting percentage — it’s easy to see why his contributions shot up with a corresponding increase in playing time. In the first of this two-part series, here’s our list of potential breakout juniors in the ACC this season. The breakout sophomores will publish tomorrow.

Junior Jumps

1) Terance Mann – Florida State – 25.0 MPG, 8.4 PPG, 120.1 ORtg, 61.1% 2FG.

Florida State’s Terance Mann is a prime candidate to have a breakout junior season.
(Melina Vastola/USA TODAY Sports)

With the departures of Jonathan Isaac, Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes from the Seminoles’ roster, there are going to be a lot of available possessions for the remaining players this season. We would advise head coach Leonard Hamilton to give as many of those touches to Mann as he can handle. In addition to the 2016-17 statistics listed above, the versatile wing also excels on the boards (8.6% offensive rebound rate) and at getting to the foul line (45.0% FT rate). Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC Burning Questions: NC State Wolfpack

Posted by Mick McDonald on October 26th, 2017

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Burning Question: Can Kevin Keatts compete in his first season in Raleigh?

Former head coach Mark Gottfried managed to get NC State to the NCAA Tournament in each of his first four seasons in Raleigh, but life on the bubble proved very stressful. After logging back-to-back losing seasons the next two years, Gottfried was fired following last season. His replacement, the highly impressive Kevin Keatts, will begin his fourth year as a head coach. After three seasons as an assistant to Rick Pitino at Louisville, Keatts wasted no time in turning around a UNC-Wilmington program that had experienced six straight losing seasons. The Seahawks won 18 games in his first season on the bench en route to a share of the CAA regular season championship in 2014-15, and followed that up with two more conference championships and corresponding trips to the NCAA Tournament. UNC-Wilmington came away from those experiences with an 0-2 record, but not without putting serious scares into ACC powers Duke and Virginia.

Can Kevin Keatts compete in season one in Raleigh? (Rob Kinnan/USA TODAY Sports)

Turning the Wolfpack around won’t be easy, as NC State loses its top three scorers from last season. Still, the cupboard for Keatts is hardly bare. The returning core is led by 6’8″ senior Abdul-Malik Abu, who averaged 12.0 points and seven rebounds per game last season. The athletic big man improved his effective field goal percentage (52.9%) for the third straight season and should benefit from the guards attacking the rim in Keatts’ system. Sophomore Markell Johnson will take over point guard duties from lottery pick Dennis Smith, Jr., but he will be pushed by incoming recruit Lavarr Batts, Jr. (who originally committed to VCU but ended up in Raleigh after Will Wade took the LSU job). Keatts will ask a lot of both players, especially on the defensive end in becoming a nuisance for opposing point guards. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC Offseason Storylines to Follow

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on April 28th, 2017

Now that we are back in the midst of the long offseason, it’s time to look at some key ACC storylines to keep an eye on in coming months.

NCAA Punishments (Maybe): Rinse – Recycle – Repeat! This has become an annual bullet point on the ACC offseason storyline list, but maybe it will be the last time we have to include it pertaining to North Carolina and Louisville. The North Carolina academic scandal investigation — which has now dragged on for nearly half a decade — may finally be moving toward a conclusion. Despite the best efforts of UNC’s Four Corners stalling strategy, a recent letter from NCAA infractions committee chairman Greg Sankey indicated that a hearing has been scheduled for mid-August. Still, as we are all aware given the prolonged nature of this case, nothing has proceeded at more than a snail’s pace to this point.

Rick Pitino and Louisville are still waiting on the NCAA to rule on the school’s 2015 stripper scandal. (Jamie Rhodes – USA TODAY Sports)

Louisville’s stripper scandal is a much less complicated case so it seems to be closer to a resolution. The school recently held its own hearing with the NCAA infractions committee and a commonly held belief is that the NCAA will have its final answer on penalties in about two months. The school’s argument that Rick Pitino should not be charged with failure to monitor his assistant coach has already been rejected by the NCAA, so barring a late reprieve, expect the Cardinals’ head coach to serve a suspension at some point next season.

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ACC M5: 11.01.16 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 1st, 2016

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  1. Duke kicked off its ACC exhibition season on Friday night with an easy 90-59 win over Division II Virginia State. Sophomore Luke Kennard exploded for 30 points, but the bigger story of the evening was Duke’s ongoing injury woes. Already playing without the services of injured super-freshmen Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum, Mike Krzyzewski lost two more starters to minor ailments within the first six minutes of the game. Senior wing Matt Jones left with a sore hamstring after just three minutes, and junior guard Grayson Allen went to the locker room after taking some shots to his shoulder. Allen later returned to finish with 13 points in 22 minutes, but he sat out the last eight minutes of the contest. Krzyzewski admitted afterward that he may consider toning down the intensity level of practice rather than risk more preseason harm.
  2. The saga of the North Carolina academic scandal has taken many twists and turns over the past several years, and news last week contributed to the fun when we found out that the NCAA may not actually be backing down nearly as much as we previously had thought. Things seemed to be looking more positive for the school after many of the NCAA’s initial charges went missing from the revised Notice of Allegations — including no statements about the men’s basketball program — and North Carolina’s bold retort claiming that, irrespective of that, the NCAA has no jurisdiction over the case anyway. If this were a George Lucas movie, we might say that The NCAA Strikes Back. In a release made public by the university last week, the NCAA sent UNC a harshly worded response rejecting the school’s position, and both sides met in a procedural hearing on Friday. Stay tuned for more information on this case — and there’s always more information.
  3. North Carolina State learned on Monday that Turkish freshman Omer Yurtseven must sit out the first nine games of the season because of eligibility issues. Additionally, two other ACC schools took disciplinary action against a pair of upperclassmen. Virginia confirmed that junior transfer Austin Nichols will miss all basketball activities for the next two weeks, including the Cavaliers’ season opener against UNC Greensboro. Georgia Tech also reported that senior point guard Josh Heath will miss the Yellow Jackets’ first four games of the season. In each case, the catch-all ‘violation of team rules’ was the reason given for the suspensions.
  4. The ACC is well-represented in KenPom’s preseason team rankings, with 12 league schools placed among the 51 best in the nation. Top-ranked Duke is joined in the top 10 by North Carolina (#5), Virginia (#7) and Louisville (#9), which looks very similar to the other preseason polls that have been released so far. The ACC appears to be the conference to watch for efficient scoring this year, with 12 league squads rated 34th or better in offensive efficiency. Pomeroy also lists three ACC teams that excel at the other end of the floor, with Virginia, Louisville, and Syracuse all ranked among his top five in defensive efficiency.
  5. CBSSports.com recently released its annual preseason top 100 (and one) player rankings, and the ACC, with 22 players listed, notched seven more slots than any other conference. We found it interesting that the ACC media seems to value proven performance over potential, as this national ranking from Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander clearly does not. For example, veteran guards London Perrantes and Joel Berry are rated as the 11th and 12th best ACC players according to the CBS list, but each was named to the Preseason All-ACC First Team and both were among the top four vote-getters.
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ACC Burning Questions: NC State Wolfpack

Posted by Matt Auerbach on October 21st, 2016

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Burning Question: Will the Wolfpack’s new lead dog be able to replace its top Cat?

A year ago, North Carolina State’s season seemed to have been derailed before it even got started. With the unanticipated departure of All-ACC second teamer and leading scorer Trevor Lacey to the pros, the Wolfpack had lost half of a dynamic backcourt from its surprise run to the Sweet Sixteen. And while Anthony “Cat” Barber did yeoman’s work last season in mitigating the absence of his viable second fiddle, the team just never generated enough traction as the Wolfpack missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in Mark Gottfried’s five-year tenure. As he embarks on year six in Raleigh, Gottfried once again will be tasked in replacing his leading scorer, as Barber opted for the NBA after a spectacular All-ACC junior campaign.

Test

Mark Gottfried hopes five-star freshman Dennis Smith Jr. (right) fills a fraction of the void left by Cat Barber’s departure. (The Fayetteville Observer)

Despite captaining an extraordinarily average team, Barber ranked seventh nationally in scoring at 23.5 points per game and second in the country in playing 96 percent of his team’s minutes. In his stead, Gottfried will hand the keys to the offense — an offense that ranked as last season’s 33rd most efficient — to the capable hands of five-star recruit Dennis Smith Jr. Smith, who chose the Wolfpack over Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky, suffered an ACL tear prior to his senior season, meaning he hasn’t seen any game action since 2015 (when he was named the Gatorade Basketball Player of the Year in North Carolina). By all accounts, Smith is now healthy and will undoubtedly have an opportunity to become one of the nation’s most impactful freshmen. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC M5: 10.17.16 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 17th, 2016

morning5_ACC

  1. North Carolina on Friday night held its annual ‘Late Night With Roy’ event to tip off the new season. After the usual light-hearted fare featuring various dance, skits and skills contests, the Tar Heels conducted a scrimmage that needed overtime to settle the outcome. Earlier last week, Roy Williams hosted a preseason media day where the main topic of interest was how the team will adjust to the losses of Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson. Williams described the situation as such: “Because it’s not two out of eight. It’s your two best. Markedly, maybe you could say your two best in every part of the game. It’s not just a numbers game.” The good news is that there is plenty of experienced talent still on hand with three seniors and three juniors comprising the expected top six players in Williams’ rotation. In fact, there are only 16 McDonald’s All Americans from the 2013 and 2014 classes still playing college basketball, and five of those will be suiting up in Carolina blue and white this season.
  2. Louisville also recently conducted its preseason media day and Rick Pitino seems to be very excited about his group this year. He’s expecting a lot of improvement from his sophomore class and is also happy with his team’s depth — particularly along a front line where as many as seven players may see regular minutes. We found it interesting that Pitino said the Cardinals may need to stray from their typical defensive zone trapping pressure game. Rather, he claims that this year’s team will play about 95 percent man-to-man defense because of their relative inexperience. What we find odd is that last year’s group — which finished second in  KenPom’s defensive efficiency rankings — had relatively the same level of experience and were able to execute Pitino’s multiple defensive looks just fine. Considering his track record in teaching defense, we will naturally trust the head coach to make the right call. After all, he has coached eight top-five defenses in the last nine years.
  3. It was throwback night in Tallahassee last weekend when Florida State held its annual tip-off event known as ‘Jam with Ham’ on October 7. The festivities were conducted in Tully Gym on campus, the Seminoles’ home court until 1981. Leonard Hamilton hopes some of the residual magic from that building — the 1972 NCAA runner-up Seminoles called it home — rubs off on this year’s version. Highly-touted freshman Jonathan Isaac flashed his talent and versatility in the scrimmage, and this may be Hamilton’s deepest team in years. The Seminoles are expected to return to the Big Dance for the first time since 2012.
  4. Most of the talk during N.C. State’s recent media day concerned the Wolfpack’s two most highly-rated newcomers, point guard Dennis Smith and Turkish center Omer Yurtseven. Mark Gottfried is plenty impressed with Smith, calling him “the best guard in the country, period, hands down.” As for Yurtseven, there’s no timetable for when the NCAA will rule on the big man’s eligibility but his availability may be more crucial than first contemplated because of the status of the Wolfpack’s two senior big guys. Gottfried said that he plans to redshirt Lennard Freeman so that he can fully recover from a lower leg injury. The coach also said that Beejay Anya weighed 344 pounds just a few short weeks ago, making it unlikely that he would be in condition for major minutes from the outset.
  5. On October 1 we learned that Virginia Tech’s Kerry Blackshear was not going to be ready when the Hokies started practice because of offseason foot surgery. Last week, head coach Buzz Williams announced that the sophomore big man may in fact miss the entire season. This development would be a big blow to the Hokies’ frontcourt, leaving them short on depth and height in the paint. Williams often played small-ball last season as Virginia Tech closed strong in conference play (winning its last five ACC games), using 6’7″ Zach LeDay and 6’6″ Chris Clarke in the post. But the 6’10” Blackshear also got plenty of minutes when the Hokies needed a tall body on the floor to combat the ACC’s top post men. If he can’t play, then Williams will need 6’10” freshman Khadim Sy to grow up fast.
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